November 21st, 2009


We have a President.

That is, the EU has a President and a Foreign Affairs chief (at long last! Gods this has been a long time coming).

Our President is Herman Van Rompuy and Foreign Affairs Chief Baroness Catherine Ashton.

And the EU did say “who?” True, they’re not exactly household names.

I was dubious at first. Well, actually at first I was delighted that Tony Blair hasn’t got anywhere near the post - something I was dreading only a little less than the idea of Margaret Thatcher suddenly running for it (one moment, I just had a minor heart attack considering that). But on reflection I am actually very happy with the choices.

Neither is known for their extreme flash or charisma. This is good. I loathe charismatic politicians. Charismatic politicians lie and deceive. They give speeches and little substance. They promise the moon and tell you the sky is pink and drape wool heavily over your eyes while screwing things every which way. I don’t like charisma in office - it’s too easily used and too easily exploited.

Neither are divisive or giving to divisive foolishness or dramatic gestures. In the EU bloc there are 27 states - and growing. Flashy people, divisive people, people unwilling to listen will not help us and will not manage that well.

Further, they both have a reputation for, well, quiet competence. I have a lot of respect for quiet competence. Van Rompuy seems to be credited as a capable economist (and reluctant politician)

Baroness Ashton has considerable achievements in the UK (and is very pro LGBT btw). She doesn’t have a lot of relevant experience - but she does look more than competent. I’m more doubtful about her than Van Rompuy, but on the whole am happy with both choices.

All in all, it could have been a lot worse. Which is usually the best you can say about politics.

Musings on the m/m genre

A friend of mine recently asked my opinion of m/m fiction in general. I tried to answer then and there but found myself rambling around because it is complicated muchly - and within it are many ifs maybes and buts. So, time to make an LJ post to see if I can sort out my own thoughts and see if the wonderful people who read this can help find order in the ramble.

First of all - the definition. M/m fiction as I see it, is literature centring around a male/male relationship. It is also primarily written by straight women.

And I know some gay men loathe it with a fiery passion. And I don’t blame them - because most of it is bloody awful.

No, really. It’s full of gross (and often insulting) stereotypes, focused entirely on the sexing, full of tired and unrealistic tropes.

Now the reason I haven’t had the same averse reaction to the genre is the FIRST m/m I read was actually very good. I have read good m/m fiction since then - but the very first m/m fiction I came across in the net was written by 2 women whose stories I still follow and enjoy immensely (I had thought to name them here but have decided against doing so. If I invite controversy with my musings I‘d rather not spill it into their spaces). These were good stories with actual developed characters, great plot lines and in general were good reads.

Since then I have read good m/m. But the majority I’ve read doesn’t come close - in fact it goes a long damn way from coming close. In fact, let’s be frank, most of it is porn. The m/m characters have as much relation with actual gay men as the nigh obligatory “lesbian” sex scene in porn aimed at heterosexual men. And, naturally, that has strong implications of appropriation, exploitation and voyeurism to say the least and potential consequences for young gays looking for something about them come across a stereotypical, angst filled, sex obsessed one-hand-reading piece of m/m fiction.

In short, I do not like the majority of m/m fiction because it doesn’t have gay men in it - it has blow up dolls painted with rainbows.

This is further exacerbated by what I’ve seen of the m/m community - though I admit my perceptions are heavily coloured from the Lambda fail (Details: here, here, here, here and here.) I have found it to be extremely straight-centric, straight privileged, very cavalier with gay people, characters and issues and with a very strong sense of entitlement (displayed grossly by the Lambda award brouhaha). We have some straight authors pretending to be gay to sell books - and arguing that that is ok and even straight authors assuming they are allied to (you don’t get to claim ally status) LGBT people just because they write about gay sex. I have seen them show up in gay spaces, gay forums, pride parades, gay events and actually acting like authorities or members because of what they write.

In short, I have been neither impressed nor amused. In fact, I don’t consider the m/m genre to be a safe space for gay men.

BUT, I am unwilling to throw away the whole category of m/m altogether. I as I said some authors of m/m write extremely good stories with gay characters. Some of them read this journal and they know they’re good (or should do :P). I also do not buy into the idea that straight writers can’t write gay characters. I think it takes time and effort and research to write gay characters in a sympathetic, realistic, non-stereotypical and non-offensive way - but I have no problem with straight people writing gay characters. I think the idea that they shouldn’t is both silly and self-defeating.

So what, I ask myself, to do? What is the way out here?

IDEALLY I would like to see a split of genres. With m/m fiction being classed as primarily books aimed at straight women that largely orientate around the *ahem* “relationship” (term used loosely). With another coined genre based on gay characters in a more full, less fetishised/voyeuristic fashion. In truth I think the latter would often fit nicely into CURRENT genres. Is there a reason why a quality Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Romance novel is suddenly labelled m/m just because it has gay characters in centre stage? Why does the fact the main characters are gay utterly change the genre? Are gay characters unfit or unqualified, somehow?

(I have to say at this point that I wouldn’t support the idea of straight authors writing books that were labelled as ‘gay fiction’. For obvious reasons).

Of course, the ‘ideal’ doesn’t happen. Mainstream publishers are not exactly falling over themselves for books with gay main characters. And publishers that do publish m/m primarily are very much a part of the genre and I doubt very much will draw any distinction at all between a book written with realistic, fully fleshed out, non-stereotypical gay characters in an absorbing and detailed plotline who do more than hump and angst and books which are intended to read one handed, written by Julian McHomo (honest), have more words spent describing the throbbing of penis than actual plot and have characters that make yaoi ‘uke’ and ‘seme’ characterisations seem a positively glowing example of homosexual relationships.

Despite the ideal being likely unattainable, I have to say I am unequivocally against the good authors who are as not impressed as I am from just putting down their pens and packing up their keyboards. And, sadly, I have seen 2 authors consider doing just that. Removing the well characterised plots from the voyeuristic, appropriation almost-porn will not make the headache-inducing stories less common, less prevalent or slow down its production nor will it balance the genre or the community. While I can understand an element of not wanting to be part of or being seen to be supporting a community whose practices you find objectionable, there also has to be a measure of practicality.

So I would say that, even if you don’t like all that happens in the genre, write. Promote where you can in the community - preferably choosing the least objectionable spaces (and they most certainly exist) - but don’t be afraid to hold your nose now and then. Choose the publisher most sensitive to your concerns - but in the end, any port in a storm. Don’t think that being a part of the genre means you can’t criticise it.

Mercenary? Maybe. But I’d rather see more good stories with gay characters out there, than the authors deciding they don’t want any part of the various problematic issues in the genre. I don’t think either their disapproving stance is damage nor the genre’s negative elements encouraged by their participation. And if they were, I think these concerns are outweighed by the benefit of having allies increasing the amount of realistic portrayals of gay men in literature.

So... I’ve rambled a whole hell of a lot here and not said an awful lot, largely because of my own ambivalence. I have to say again that I don’t think in any way that my characterisation of the m/m genre to all m/m authors. It may not even apply to most (but, if it doesn’t, then ‘most’ are very very quiet). And, again, I say that my perceptions have been coloured by the Lambda debate and similar which did not show the genre in the best possible light. I do feel though. there’s more than a little... unpleasantness there and some very strong problematic elements. I don’t know exactly where to go here (or how to end this piece) but it’s probably something I’m going to be musing about for a while.

Why marriage rights are important: another angle

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

Specifically, why marriage rights are important to homosexuals. I’ve already spoken many many many times about all the essential, non-imitatable rights and protections are inherent in marriage. I’ve also touched on how denying ANY right, no matter how insignificant, sends a dangerous message from the government that that group is worthy of discrimination (though I’m going to cover that more) but those are other points.

Now I’m going to ramble about the assumptions of a relationship most heterosexuals enjoy EVEN WHEN THEY’RE NOT MARRIED. I’m doing this because I’ve seen a few heterosexuals around the edge of the marriage debate basically saying “well, why do you want it? Why is it important?“

Because I think, to a degree, there are some factors to this that heterosexuals miss simply because we’re all inclined to take for granted the advantages of privilege and we all just assume the power of rights when we have them for so long.

The fact is our societies are prejudiced and they have both privileged and normalised the idea of a heterosexual 2 partner relationship - to such a degree that anything outside of this is going to face opposition AND NOT GAIN THE ADVANTAGES OF ALL THE ASSUMPTIONS RELATIONSHIPS BENEFIT FROM.

And the latter is a point to emphasise (among many many other points). We can spend some depressing hours googling our way through horror stories about how denial of gay rights has caused real pain. Whether it’s the lesbian who had to wait with her children unable to see her partner of many many years even though she was dying in the hospital, or the gay man who lost his house when his long term partner died and they had crippling inheritance tax or the partner of a gay soldier who had to learn about his boyfriend’s death when the media turned up to INTERVIEW HIM ABOUT IT (I think that’s as much to do with DADT as anything - but seriously, that’s madness) to the INNUMERABLE cases where wills, power of attorneys et al have been challenged (successfully!) when homosexuals have desperately taken what limited steps we could to ensure basic rights that heterosexuals take for granted.

Do you know what the key linking factor between all these beyond how they would all have been solved if the couples could marry? The factor is that if all of the couples were heterosexual they would not have happened - EVEN IF THEY WERE NOT MARRIED.

If it was a woman wanting to see her long term male partner dying in the hospital the hospital staff wouldn’t have blinked. Challenging the will of a man who left all his property to a woman he had spent the last decade living with would be considered utterly insane. No-one has trouble thinking of someone fulfilling a parental role of children they have raised for 5, 10 or 20 years even if they aren’t married to either biological parent and haven’t adopted the kids - so long as they are heterosexual. Most employers won’t blink if you ask for time off because your heterosexual partner has had a bereavement, life tragedy or is hurt and needs someone to help look after them. Even little things - I cannot count the number of cards (and even invites) I’ve received from people who KNOW all about Beloved and have for years that don’t include his name. And I may have to go on an axe-murdering rampage through my local bank if they don’t give us a joint bank account soon.

To me, ultimately, marriage is about declaring to the world that you are an official couple (actually, I think TRADITIONAL marriage is about treating women as transferable property from father to her new owner, the husband, but that’s another matter and certainly a legitimate reason to have a problem with marriage) and that you should be treated accordingly. Many marriage laws and rights cover that - from treating 2 people as separate entities to 2 people acting, at least occasionally, as one unit. The reason why this isn’t always seen as necessary for heterosexual couples is because society will treat you like that ANYWAY (at least usually).

We don‘t get that assumption. It’s the legacy of societal prejudice and the blinkered view that privilege can give even the most well meaning of us. Even when we ARE married, it can be still very hard to get people and the powers that be to treat us as such. Without that legal recognition it can be like getting blood out of a stone.

And that is why marriage rights are important. It’s an official recognition not just that our individual relationships exist but a movement for society to realise that YES same-sex couples exist, YES these are reasonable relationships and should be treated as such and YES the assumptions that are applied so casually to heterosexuals should apply here too. Even for those of us that do not get married - it is a step towards having those assumptions, those so-helpful societal assumptions, apply to us as well.

Vatican condemns Twilight

The Roman Catholic Church has condemned the Twilight Series of books

For once I thought I'd finally found common ground with the Catholic church! Yes, such writing should be declared an offence to all mankind!

But no. Apparently it is condemned for "deviant moral values." Wait... aren't these the "mate for life, no sex-before marriage" vampires?

It's like they're TRYING to become less relevent in the modern world!

But there has been a terrible side effect from this.

*urge to read Twilight rising* Gods protect me...

I'm also kind of waiting for Anne Rice to fly out to the Vatican and start screaming "where's MY condemnation, arsehole?!"